Genesis Sentence

August 6, 2008 12:46:59 AM PDT
The Genesis investigation started six and a half years ago, after former employees claimed the sisters who ran the child welfare agency were taking money improperly.The first trial against Elaine Bernard and Carol Dela Torre ended in a mistrial last year. Instead of facing a new trial, the sisters agreed to plead guilty. They were sentenced Tuesday, they avoided jail, and may continue running the 11 million dollar a year operation.

There were smiles, tears and hugs in the courtroom as Elaine Bernard and her sister Carol Dela Torre were sentenced to probation, and electronic monitoring not jail for their roles in embezzling half a million dollars. From the agency they founded. They say they can't wait to get back to work.

Elaine Bernard said," I'm feeling very relieved to have this sad chapter of my life over and I look forward to doing great things for kids. So, I'm relieved."

Carol Dela Torre added," I'm looking forward to getting on with my life and doing the valuable work of helping the many, many, many, disadvantaged children in this community."

But the sisters have never left Genesis. The social welfare agency brings in 11 million a year in state funds. Elaine Bernard has remained CEO throughout the legal battle, and Carol Dela Torre is the clinical director. They are each paid about 150 thousand a year.

During the hearing Prosecutor Regina Leary argued for jail time because she says otherwise it will be business as usual for Bernard and Dela Torre.

She said," This corporation will continue to be entirely at the mercy of these two women."

Throughout the hearing judge John Vogt expressed his frustration at the lack of oversight that allowed the money to be pilfered through personal use of company credit cards. He wondered how the Genesis Board of Directors and the State and County Agencies that were supposed to oversee these funds could have missed the sister's apparent spending spree.

Vogt said," The thing that we all need to keep in mind here is that this is all public money that's been at stake, it came from the taxpayers to pay for services to disadvantaged children."

Throughout the proceedings the sisters had been accused of not showing any remorse. But outside the courtroom, Elaine Bernard apologized saying, "Yes, there were mistakes made, and I am very sorry for them very remorseful and I look forward to being a productive member of the community for many years to come. My mistakes don't define who I am, they've helped develop my character and I've learned my lessons."

In addition to three years felony probation Elaine Bernard will have to pay one hundred thousand dollars in restitution, and for 300 days -- she'll be wearing an electronic monitoring device while she's on a work furlough, but she will serve no formal jail time. Her sister, Carol Dela Torre was sentenced to two years of misdemeanor probation And thirty days of work furlough. But also no jail time.

The convictions will have an impact on the sister's ability to function as social workers, but the attorney for the Genesis Board of Directors made it clear in court that the sisters have the full support of the board, so they are expected to remain on the payroll.

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